6:00 p.m. – Kicking off the night. With an hour until the polls close and early voting totals are released, we’re hunkering down in Austin for a night of election results. We’ll be updating this page with voting totals, analysis, photos from reporters at watch parties, quotes from victory speeches and sore losers, etc.
6:10 p.m. – Will the Democrats sustain record-setting early voting surge?
Democratic early voting totals more than doubled turnout in the 2014 midterm, and even eclipsed early voting in the 2016 presidential election. On the other hand, Republican early voting turnout fell 36 percent compared to 2016.
While the preliminary numbers — which account for the state’s 15 biggest counties — are promising for Democrats, Mark P. Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University, issued a word of caution and a prediction.
“These data are from counties that tend to lean Democratic on average. Generally, what’s going on in the next-tier counties, Lubbock, McLennan, Smith — all those — you’re seeing mostly Republicans turnout,” Jones said. “Overall, when all of the dust clears on Tuesday evening, more Texans will have participated in the Republican Primary.”
Jones clarified, though, that the strong numbers for Democrats aren’t insignificant.
“The gap between the two will be at the lowest level since 2006 — that was before the Republican civil wars began,” Jones said.
6:45 p.m. – ‘Only one truly interesting race in the Senate’
there's only one truly interesting race in the Senate, SD31 where legacy R Kel Seliger is fighting off a strong challenge from right-faction Republicans. it matters a great deal, Seliger is good on isolated issues: https://t.co/oz4OetUrpA
Notoriously absent and scandal-ridden 12-term state Representative Dawnna Dukes had a poor showing in early voting. She’s trailing challengers Sheryl Cole, a former Austin City Council member, and José “Chito” Vela, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, by 30 percentage points.
7:50 p.m. – Neck-and-neck race between Hall, Burkett in SD 2
A race that has come down to who is the most anti-abortion candidate — with the litmus test being an abortion ban after 20 weeks, even in the case of fetal anomaly — is neck and neck in early voting results.
8:10 p.m. – Sarah Davis holds small lead over Abbott-backed Susanna Dokupil through early voting
Davis, a moderate Republican incumbent targeted by Governor Greg Abbott, has 53 percent of the early vote, compared to Dokupil’s 47 percent.
8:20 p.m. – Bexar County DA Nico LaHood reportedly blocks local newspaper from watch party before conceding
Early voting spelled trouble for the incumbent in the Bexar County DA’s race, one of two Texas prosecutor races criminal justice reformers have targeted this election. Nico LaHood — who disparaged Islam, peddled conspiracy theories about Sharia courts and very publicly declared that vaccines cause autism in his first term as San Antonio’s top prosecutor — conceded the race around 8:30 p.m. to challenger Joe Gonzales, who had 61 percent of the early vote total. The ugly race took an even stranger turn in the final days of the campaign, with LaHood calling his opponent’s support for jail diversion for prostitution cases a “vote for sexual diseases.”
In his first term, LaHood also blocked reporters he doesn’t like and berated the San Antonio Express-News for critical coverage of his office. So it makes sense that Texas Public Radio is now reporting that E-N reporters/photogs are being blocked from LaHood’s election night watch party.
I’ve been told by staff from the San Antonio Express-News that the Nico LaHood campaign is not letting reporters and photogs from the paper into his election night party. @TPRNews. pic.twitter.com/OXrVfJb6yk
8:45 p.m. – Dukes, other Dem incumbents on the ropes
There might — emphasis on “might” — be an emerging theme tonight of Democratic incumbents facing upsets or runoffs, though it’s still very early.
Twelve-term Austin state Representative Dawnna Dukes is, at present, in pretty bad shape. Her two frontrunning challengers, former City Council member Sheryl Cole and local immigration attorney José “Chito” Vela, are running neck and neck with around 39 percent of the vote, while Dukes languishes with a meager 10.5 percent. Many precincts have yet to report — but it just might be that Dukes’ absenteeism and other scandals are catching up to her.
Other struggling state House Democrats include Roberto Alonzo, of Dallas, Diana Arévalo and Tomas Uresti, both of San Antonio. Uresti’s race in particular was not on the radar of many political observers. The San Antonio Express-News called his challenger, Leo Pacheco, an “unknown.” It’s probably worth noting that his brother, state Senator Carlos Uresti, was just convicted of 11 felony fraud charges. Carlos is also facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Of the three, Alonzo’s straits are most dire; he trails by a 24-point margin.
Texas has never sent a Latina to Congress. If early voting splits hold in crowded congressional primaries out of El Paso and Houston, Texas could very well send two Latinas to Congress next year.
State Senator Sylvia Garcia’s sitting on 60 percent of early vote totals in the 7-way primary for Houston’s Congressional District 29. Meanwhile, Veronica Escobar won 61 percent of early votes in El Paso’s Congressional District 16. Both districts are a shoo-in for Democrats in the general, meaning if both win their respective primaries without a runoff the state will make history tonight.
9:05 p.m. – Incumbent Craig Estes way behind Rep. Pat Fallon in North Texas Senate District
In early voting, Representative Pat Fallon is handily defeating Wichita Falls Senator Craig Estes, 64 percent to 22 percent. It comes as a bit of a surprise, seeing as how Estes has won five Republican primaries since 2002 and has raised $782,500 in campaign cash since July, more than doubling Fallon’s $294,500.
In a not-so-distant third, Craig Carter, a Nocona businessman, has pulled in 14 percent of the vote. That means Estes, a senior member of the upper chamber, is close to tying with another Craig whom virtually no one had heard of before this election. Leading up to the primary, Estes and Fallon engaged in increasingly vitriolic campaigns — Estes’ last strike saw a character representing Fallon confessing his wrongdoings to a Catholic priest in a campaign ad. Fallon said the ad was insulting. Perhaps some voters agreed?
At present, things aren’t looking good for Estes (he’s getting beat 2-to-1 even in his home county of Wichita). In fact, Estes hasn’t won a single county yet.
10:05 p.m. – Andrew White and Lupe Valdez headed to a runoff
Mark your calendar for May 22: Lupe Valdez and Andrew White are headed to a runoff. With more than one-quarter of precincts reporting, Valdez and White are leading the other seven candidates in the Democratic primary for governor by large margins. Former Dallas County Sheriff Valdez is in the lead with 42 percent, followed by White — a Houston businessman and the son of former Texas Governor Mark White — with 28 percent. And that’s more or less the result that Valdez and White expected.
10:15 p.m. – Republican, Democratic primaries headed for a runoff to replace Lamar Smith in CD 21
With 18 candidates in the Republican primary for Congressional District 21, the question was mostly who would end up making the runoff, not whether there would be one. With the early vote and some of the election night ballots tallied, here are some clear frontrunners. Former Ted Cruz staffer Chip Roy leads the pack with 26 percent. William Negley, a former CIA agent and self-proclaimed “terrorist hunter,” and businessman Matt McCall, who has run twice previously in the district, are both around 18 percent.
Maybe more surprising are the results in the Democratic primary. As expected, Joseph Kopser, who has outraised all the other candidates combined, has secured about a third of the vote. Going by the money raised and endorsements alone, one might’ve expected former Travis County executive director Eliott McFadden or Democratic Socialists of America member Derrick Crowe to be in second place. Nope.
In second place is Mary Wilson, a former math teacher and pastor of a Baptist church with 28 percent. Wilson has few endorsements and has only raised about $40,000. But, there’s a 4 percentage-point difference between her and Crowe and the night is still young with 34 percent of precincts reporting. Keep an eye on who finishes second and makes the May 22 runoff for both parties.
10:30 p.m. – Sarah Davis declares victory over Dokupil, Abbott in heated Houston House race
The biggest loser in state Representative Sarah Davis’ race to keep her House seat: Governor Greg Abbott. The Governor turned on his own party’s incumbent and put his full weight behind Davis’ primary challenger, Susanna Dokupil, a lawyer and board member of the Seasteading Institute, donating nearly a quarter of a million dollars to defeating Davis.
But Davis, the most moderate member of the Texas House, fended off attacks from Abbott and far-right groups including Texas Right to Life, Empower Texans and Texans for Vaccine Choice. “They always say you’re either running unopposed or running scared,” Davis told the Observer last month, saying she was taking the challenge seriously. With 55 percent of precincts reporting at 10:30pm, Davis led Dokupil by more than 10 percentage points. She took the stage at her Houston watch party and declared victory.
“I will not be told by anyone in Austin whether I am Republican…and nor should you,” Davis reportedly said. “This is our party and we’re taking it back.”
11:20 p.m. – 17-term state Rep. René Oliveira forced to runoff in Rio Grande Valley
Update: 17-term state Rep Rene Oliveira has been just barely pushed to a runoff. Not with the candidate this profile focused on, but with Cameron County Commissioner Alex Dominguez. https://t.co/zQG36J2NQV
Greg Abbott went hunting this cycle, trying to pull House Republicans into line by picking a few of them off — Lyle Larson in San Antonio, Sarah Davis in Houston, and Wayne Faircloth of Galveston. He bagged one of them, Faircloth. One of three is not much, but it’s not nothing.
Larson and Davis are two of the more moderate Republicans in the House, and they came away from this experience essentially unscathed, and a lot more vocal about their distrust of the governor. At the moment Larson is beating his opponent, Chris Fails, by almost 19 points. Sarah Davis is beating hers, Susanna Dokupil, by almost 12 points. Abbott spent nearly $250,000 on Dokupil, and his allies spent much more, and he doesn’t appear to have bought very much with it.
Faircloth, on the other hand, is getting beat by 15 points. Abbott’s targeting of Faircloth, a pretty run-of-the-mill backbench Republican, was a lot more inexplicable than his crusade against Larson and Davis. But it’s produced something for him — he notched a kill. If Abbott’s goal is to get House Republicans to get in line, Faircloth’s loss might look like a warning. There are a lot more Republicans whose district looks like Faircloth’s than looks like Davis’.
That’s how the governor’s people will try to spin it. But observers would be forgiven for suspecting that the three races happened about like they would have had the governor not gotten involved at all — and it’s significant that the race Abbott sunk the most time and prestige into, Sarah Davis’, blew up so hard in his face. Meanwhile, notable Texas Republicans like Ed Emmett, the Harris County judge, have become more openly critical of the governor. It’ll take a while to see if that sticks, but for now, it looks like Abbott got little for his investment.
11:45 p.m. – Kel Seliger narrowly avoids runoff in Panhandle Senate District 31
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, it looks like Amarillo Senator Kel Seliger has narrowly avoided a runoff in the Senate District 31 primary. Leading up to Election Day, it looked like Seliger had reason to worry — one of his opponents, Victor Leal, is a popular restaurant owner in the Panhandle; the other, former Midland mayor Mike Canon, nearly beat Seliger in 2014.
But now Seliger, who has been branded as the most moderate member of the Senate, has bested both of the challengers and will return to his seat for the 2019 legislative session. He may, however, find little support from chamber leadership, seeing as how Seliger was the only senator who did not endorse Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s re-election campaign. He also was virtually alone in defying Patrick on school vouchers and elections for local tax increases.
12:30 a.m. – State Rep. Jason Villalba loses to far-right GOP primary challenger
Say goodbye to the Texas House candy jar.
State Representative Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, was defeated by his challenger, Lisa Luby Ryan on Tuesday, by a margin of about six percentage points. Ryan, an interior designer, was endorsed by a slew of far-right groups and opposed gun regulations by saying “My son, who is autistic, was robbed by three black thugs.” Texas Right to Life called Ryan’s win “one of the biggest gains from tonight,” and Texans for Vaccine Choice posted a Facebook live video with Ryan in celebration.
Villalba has been a top target of anti-vaxxers since he filed legislation in 2015 to eliminate non-medical “conscience” exemptions in public schools, amid surging opt-out rates. He declined to file the bill again in 2017, saying he wasn’t interested in a “suicide mission” over the issue. This time around though, he insisted the group is an “insignificant ant” that is “so insignificant to my campaign … they’re as important to me as the Flat Earth Society.”